"Richard III is a study in evil." Discuss Richard's role as a tragic hero.

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Aristotle, a greek philosopher, claimed that tragedy was a depiction of the downfall of a noble person who has desirable qualities, through a combination of hubris, fate and the will of Gods. This is the basis for the argument of Richard’s role as a tragic hero.

Many of Shakespeare’s plays include a tragic hero. One example is Macbeth. Macbeth fits with Aristotle’s idea of a tragic hero as he was a noble person; he came from a rich family. Similar to Richard who also belongs to an aristocrat family – he was in the beginning the Duke of Gloucester and then later became King Richard III. So like Macbeth, Richard could be a tragic hero.

He does not have any desirable qualities. He is represented as being witty and charismatic. He is called the “formal Vice” and a quality of the Vice figure is wit and cruel humour. A popular character during the period in which Shakespeare was writing. The Vice had its origins in the morality plays of the sixteenth century, where medieval devils, who tempted mankind, were repulsive and dangerous, but also comic. He would also be witty and self-consciously theatrical.  Examples of Richard’s wit and cruel humour can be seen throughout the play and is reinforced through his use of word play adding to the dramatic irony of the scenes e.g. when he tells Clarence that his “imprisonment shall not be long”. The audience, unlike Clarence know that this is a reference to Clarence’s foreseeable death which Richard explained to us in his earlier soliloquy. His witty nature, it could be argued, is a desirable quality but by the end of the paly his wit deserts him, for example, when he does not manage to convince Elizabeth to marry her daughter. So although he does have desirable qualities at the beginning of the play, they are not present throughout. And rather than being desirable qualities, wit is more of an admirable skill. To summarise, it can be argued that Richard could not be a tragic hero as he does not have any desirable qualities.

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It can be argued that Richard’s downfall was the will of the Gods. An aspect of this is Margaret’s curses. Her curses add to the dramatic tension because they act as prophesies the audience know that what she says will come true. When Margaret prays for Richard to be punished for his treachery, she asks God to execute divine justice. So later, when Richard is killed in battle, we get the sense that God really has answered Margaret’s plea and that Richard’s death has been ordained by God. There is potential for dramatic irony as audience watch the curses ...

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